Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rock. Paper. Scissors.

This month has been full of adventure, learning and happiness.  If we could all begin all our blog posts just like that, what a wonderful world this would be, yes??  I spent a month in Colorado in 2013 and ten days of it were in October. A cause for happiness indeed! And the ROCK in my title…

I went to Art Camp for Women. I dreamed of it for several years and took the plunge this fall. They will no longer be leading these awesome retreats so it was a particularly good gift! I was so thankful to get to participate in the last one! We had three great artists come teach sessions too.

Carla Sonheim and her drawing instruction, loosening us up with silly animals and many excellent exercises infused with joy, account for PAPER.  Becky Nunn showed us all sorts of tricks and techniques for jewelry and Sara Rockinger taught us Theromfax silk screening. SCISSORS used here.

For me, it was a slice of the New Earth!  Time for art with like-minded women eating delicious food looking out at fall in the Rockies, with a little snow thrown in. For me and my sensibilities, it does not get any better than that!  No high heels necessary… no excuses allowed… walking in between classes encouraged… photos all around. It was grand!

I would not have been able to fully engage in an event like this in the past.  Having a new cochlear implant made all the difference. How?  Stay tuned….

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Government WHAT??

Politics. I’ve never written about them here before, but today (parts of) our government shut down. I have opinions about this fiasco, but because they are not clearly thought out, I won’t interject them into the fray. I’m going to comment on something that I noticed to today on Facebook from the first 6:30 am comment “How come the social networks aren’t lighting up about this?” through the wordy mish mash appearing all over the place this evening.

I contributed my share, but it was small and cryptic enough that one could assume I was writing about whatever one wanted to assume…  I will say that I believe we need to take care of each other and that we will almost always gravitate towards greed and self interest before looking out for the interests of others. (The theological reasoning behind that, I will not get into.) I believe government, while quite imperfect, is one avenue that God has established to assist us in looking past ourselves to the needs of others. There is a cost to life and a cost to caring for the less fortunate. We collectively bear those costs.  

More stunning were the diverse opinions and comments showing up on Facebook (I am not a #twit yet…) I am going to post a few of the ones that arrived on my feed today. I have very interesting friends and therefore quite an array of opinions appeared!!! The common denominator among the comments I am choosing to post is that all of these friends profess faith in Christ.  Jesus gets bashed around in the world of politics and I dare say, he doesn’t vote Republican or Democrat… nor drink tea or beer. He is, however, living and active in our imperfect world working through the imperfect lives of imperfect citizens. And if one professes to have perfect clarity about ‘what would Jesus do?’ one is sorely mistaken.

Take for instance, this sort of diversity on Government Shut Down Day One from the people of God:

 “Saw this bumper sticker while leaving work, "I love Obamacare" ... Wonder if they will be one of the employees who will loose their job because of the projected 330 million budget deficit that obamacare will soon cause the clinic...”  Ohio

“Reading BONHOEFFER; pastor, martyr, prophet, spy. Where is this faith today?” Colorado

“I'm sorry - but I must say this: We have a legislative process in the United States. WHEN both Houses of Congress pass a bill - in this case The Affordable Health Care - WHEN the Supreme Court - under challenge -after the fact - declares it Constitutional - WHEN a President wins a convincing re-election - after the bill has been passed - and when his opponent made AHCA a key criticism of his failed campaign - you do not destroy the whole economy by shutting down the Government to change a law you don't like! This is exactly what is playing out in Washington today. What the GOP is doing in NOT illegal - but it IS unethical.” Colorado

“I will not patronize any business that alters worker hours to keep from adhering to the Affordable Care Act. If that business is so close to the bone that that is the profit margin, then they are not viable in the first place. I certainly would not invest or hold stock in any such company.” Washington 

“Coffees and lots of it is needed to improve the day.”(--small blog Coffee Break) Washington

“I am ashamed of the government shutdown that resulted from Congress' inaction last night. Congress is so polarized that they cannot reconcile their differences and meet on middle ground. Wake up, Republicans & Democrats! This polarization is unsustainable and will not be tolerated among the American people as you can see by the uproar today. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering furloughs because of your inability to pass a crucial bill. And might I add, it's absolutely ridiculous that the same Members of Congress that caused the government to shutdown will still receive their paychecks!” Texas

Perhaps the congressmen (red & blue) should be deemed non-essential.” Ohio

 “This is not easy. We all need to read both sides. We need change, just not sure this change.” California

“Employers are using "obamacare" as an excuse to not do the right thing by their workers. Shameful and greedy.” Ohio

That’s all really.  We are entitled to our opinions, of course... I was just marveling at the diversity among my very small group of friends, all who possess a fundmentally similar worldview.

Lastly, I will give my son credit for posting the best comment to come across my feed today, and leave you with this: Have we tried turning our government off and back on again?” 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Media to the Rescue

It’s true. I use ‘social media’ regularly, though I have yet to create a Twitter account.  When I do I won’t tell you my #name, but reserve the right to just creep on #others (don’t you love the phrases that are now part of our everyday vocabulary?!)

I know not everyone is enamored with Facebook and Reddit and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and whatevertheheck is out there I have yet to hear about. But, there are plenty of good sides and benefits to cyber connecting. The negatives abound, but I’m not choosing to focus on those here. There’s enough scary press and conniving advertisers and data hungry machines out there to make anyone want to become a hermit. The NSA might discover that you eat dark chocolate, drink craft brew, like searching for Petoskey stones and listen to The Rabid Raccoons, but life is a risk and often, risks are worth taking.

This week my favorite stomping grounds were devastated by water and mud. The epic Colorado floods have damaged dreams and taken out lives and property. I don’t  live nearby, but I have family and friends who do, so I am watching closely. When cell phones and landlines and other services were down, towns and businesses and resorts took to Twitter and Facebook to notify thousands! Kids on field trips in the mountains were safe, but stranded, and FB came to the rescue to notify parents that pizza and charades were happening. FB shared times for community meetings and road closures and helped relatives to know that family was safe. This was good. Very good.

I can’t use the phone. I’m trying with this CI now, but not successfully yet. For years I haven’t been very good at ‘lunch dates’ or ‘parties’ or ‘coffee shops’ or pretty much any other venue where live people tend to congregate. Social networking is a way for me to not feel quite so isolated in my silent little world. I’m grateful. FB and texting and email are how people know to reach me and until I learn to use the telephone again (or IF), it’s still important for me to have these technologies to simply communicate.

Happily, sometimes, personal connections come FROM cyber space. I love that! I had girlfriends show up at my house for several days because we met again on FB. What a blast that was! I stayed with a friend in England because we met again on FB.  I’m getting wise advise from other CI users all over the world because we have a group on FB. I post my digital art for feedback and offer it to others via social networking.  I found my childhood BFF on FB! The list goes on and on…

Encouragement. Growth. Face to face connections. Keeping up with far flung family and friends. Sharing photos and opinions and memories. It’s all out there.  Your list would be different, of course. But I’m grateful for the positives. This week I am trying to find a college sorority sister so I can meet her in Chicago next week. I think I found her daughter on Facebook, so I’m hopeful that will lead to brunch. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Her Light Still Shines...

I did not know her personally.  She was a trainer at the gym where I work out when I heard the news that leukemia had come. Occasionally there would be photos posted and I recall an event or two to help the family. When I’d see pictures of her, I would offer prayers for healing for this mom of three little girls. 

She’s gone now. I saw Facebook posts yesterday which led to her blog where her gracious, loving, articulate husband was brave enough to post her passing, right after she left us. I see now that many, many people (a lot I know) were following her story as it unfolded. She wrote words of encouragement and strength even as hers faded.  The fact that I am writing about her death doesn’t seem ‘fair’ since I didn’t know her or follow her journey in life. But then again, she was a light and like a star whose light continues on for what seems to be forever, I am only now being touched by it… and thus will you be too.

We weep when a mom of little girls leaves them. No matter how old we are, if we are parents, we feel that loss ourselves and it is unspeakably difficult. Our tears do the speaking for us. So many people have followed her journey, not only because they loved her, but also because it represents our common human journey and an end that we must all eventually face. I took the time to read a little of her blog. I see that she faced it with honesty, hope and graciousness. Her bedrock was faith in Christ. This Christ who conquered death… the death we will face. Likely you’ve heard that before “Christ conquered death.” If you are familiar with the Christian faith, you know what that means. If you are unfamiliar with Christianity, the phrase is odd, but still matters because well, we all will die. And some, like this young mom, earlier than she was ‘supposed to.’

Before I continue, I offer a speedy theological primer from one who believes that God created the universe, sustains it now and is Good:  God made everything and decided it was good. When He created humans, we were given a ‘mind of our own’ (don’t we know it!!). Using this mind we made choices that dissed God and therefore paid the consequences, which is where death came in. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Right away this good, grieving God came up with a plan that both honored our ‘minds of our own’ and gave us a way to still be in relationship with him, forever. That’s where Jesus comes in. He was in the story way back before creation, but one quick blog post isn’t the place to wax on about all of this. Eventually, Jesus showed up in human form, destined to die like any of us. He did, but that wasn’t the end of the story. He actually was bodily resurrected and then headed up to heaven in what’s called “the Ascension”… and even now, He is sitting with God the Father and able to hang out with us and love us and comfort us too in the form of the Holy Spirit. So, as I was saying, “Christ conquered death.”

This is where theology intersects with life, is it not?  When an athletic, beautiful wife and mother must painfully endure her life being taken away. Reading bits of her story I saw that while the journey was hers, she was not alone, AT ALL.  Within sixteen hours of her death, 170+ people have responded with words of sorrow and comfort after her husband told of her passing. That doesn’t include the countless prayers and personal sorrow felt by the likes of strangers like me. She was definitely a light in the midst of darkness.  People have noted what a hands-on daddy the girls have. I have no doubt that family and women in the community will continue to act as surrogate moms… painting finger nails and making dolls dresses which will eventually morph into shopping for prom formals. The Body of Christ (what Christians are called since the only ‘hands’ of Jesus here now are those of his followers) will be there, making meals, cleaning carpets, picking up the girls from school and soccer practice, taking them to birthday parties, folding laundry, helping with homework, coming around Dad and his daughters as they grieve.

Was God was able to swoop down and work a miracle of healing in her? Sure. He still does healing miracles all the time, but these are mostly seen in the non-western world where people are more open to His big acts. We in the west are fond of rationally trying to box in the God of the Universe instead of being open to the Mystery that He is. Her healing didn’t come on earth, though in heaven she is able to dance again. In the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 says:  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is followed by a huge list of humans who lived by faith and what that meant…

Allie lived by faith. She longed for healing so she could continue being a mom and wife and friend and athlete and… But when healing here and now didn’t come, she also died by faith. I hope that no one tells her girls nasty little phrases meant to ‘comfort’ like: “Jesus needed your mommy in heaven…” which is a crock. Jesus doesn’t need us in heaven. Her girls need her here and at their sorrowful cores, they know that full well. The miracle will be that Jesus is with them in their grief, tears, anger and questions. The miracle is that his closeness and unsearchable love for us all is near. He will be with them. He will also come in the form of others who give to this family what they need and more… That is the miracle in a loss so big that even strangers grieve.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bionic Travels: In the Kitchen

I love to cook and I love to eat. I also love the custom kitchen we created and have enjoyed for two years. We chose wood flooring and wood cabinets and large windows and high ceilings and granite counter tops. It’s really lovely, but a large room filled with hard surfaces is also a massive challenge for the hearing impaired. Hearing aids don’t compensate for all the sound literally bouncing off the walls!

Having friends over for meals (sometimes really large groups of friends!) is something we enjoy. For the past two years, however, I learned to be content to create a warm inviting context for others to come and connect around the table. I simply could not fully participate in conversations. That was really OK with my introvert side, as everyone else was plenty interesting and I did not need to contribute. I really wanted to ask questions of others, however, and resisted it most of the time because it was too trying to hear the responses. I didn’t feel it was fair for me to ask a question and then have to ask the responder to repeat everything two or three times. I learned to keep my curiosity to myself. This has been disappointing because people are interesting and to ask questions of others is one small way of honoring them. We all have stories to tell and the ability to listen to others’ stories is a great gift.

In my kitchen I have missed far too many of the stories that have been told. I’ve missed all the jokes that have been told. I’ve missed the snide comments of my children one to another and to me, spoken just softly enough for my ears to not be able to detect them. But, times they are a changing!

In my kitchen today I heard the timer on the stove. I jumped it was so loud. Even with my hearing aids in, when standing right AT the stove, I could not hear the timer when it went off.  Since I have been blessed with the gift of multi-tasking, I would often get involved in a new task while I had something baking in the oven. If no one else was in the house (two floors above me!) to tell me the timer was going off, I’d discover food well done. This has been the norm. Fortunately I haven’t had to thrown out more than a few cookies, but my new way of hearing means I will be a better cook!

I have also been able to join in conversations around the wooden table, surrounded by large windows, under the high ceiling. Since my implant, we have yet to have more than five around the table and I’m sure when everyone talks at once I will retreat. But, being able to carry on conversations when it’s just three of us is wonderful. The fact that I can now hear people eating--chewing and crunching--not so much… but I’ll take it, yes I will.

Finally, in the kitchen, I have discovered that different dishes have different tonal chimes. Did you know this? I’m guessing it’s one of those sounds your brain has long shoved out of awareness. But, I’m hearing all manner of clinks and chimes when I cook and load the dishwasher. I also hear silverware scraping on plates and bowls. It is indeed, kitchen music to my ears.